President Calls on Congress for Action on War Funding
By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2007 President Bush used his weekly radio address yesterday to call on Congress to pass critical funding for the war on terror before the Defense Department is forced to begin furloughing civilian employees.
“They must deliver vital funds for our troops, and they must do it before they leave for Christmas. Our men and women on the front lines will be spending this holiday season far from their families and loved ones. And this Christmas, they deserve more than words from Congress. They deserve action,” Bush said.
The Defense Department notified Congress last week that the department will begin the furlough process for civilian employees of the Army and Marine Corps. The furloughs could affect 100,000 civilian employees and 100,000 contractors. Furlough notification letters will go out to unions and employees starting this week, DoD officials said. Civilian employees in the United States and overseas would be affected.
The president requested $189.3 billion for war on terror supplemental funds. The House passed a $50 billion bill last month with funds to continue operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it included legislation that directs the president to withdraw most combat troops from Iraq by December 2008. The measure failed in the Senate, and the president has vowed to veto any bill that includes a troop-withdrawal timetable. Congress has passed a $460 billion Defense Appropriations Act for 2008, but this is not enough to fund ongoing operations.
If the legislation does not pass, the Army will be the first service affected, in mid-February, and the Marine Corps about a month later. DoD now is using its readiness funding, or operations and maintenance accounts, which typically pay for training, supplies and maintenance of weapons and equipment. Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates requested to shift $3.7 billion from Navy and Air Force payrolls and an $800 million excess in the working capital fund to Army and Marine Corps operations.
Military installations soon will have to shut down operations and furlough civilian employees, terminate contracts, and move into what officials call a “warm” status.
“The stakes are high for our men and women on the front lines. Our troops are striking blows against the terrorists and extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan, and these funds are critical to their continued success,” Bush said.
Congress is scheduled to adjourn on Dec. 21. If it does not reach an agreement on funding, the legislation will not be considered until after Congress reconvenes, tentatively scheduled for Jan. 15
“Congress has had plenty of time to consider the emergency funds our troops need. Time is running out,” Bush said.